* Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow told Daily Sports in Japan that the team has discussed signing free agent Hideki Matsui. Signing a minor league deal with the Rays in April, Matsui was later designated for assignment and then released over the summer.
* The Reds are looking into relievers Joakim Soria and Ryan Madson, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Both pitchers are coming off Tommy John surgery, with Soria expected to be out until May and Madson likely ready at the start of the regular season.
* According to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick, free agent Shane Victorino is gaining interest from a handful of teams. The Reds and Indians are in the mix, along with the Rangers and Red Sox, who are both looking to improve their outfield.
* Buster Olney of ESPN.com reports that Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro is aggressively pursing a center fielder and has zoned in on Michael Bourn and B.J. Upton.
– Quinn Roberts
* According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Giants outfielder Nate Schierholtz has requested a trade. Unhappy with his reduced role in San Francisco, it is believed that Schierholtz would welcome a move to a team with more opportunity.
* The Marlins are trying to shop Carlos Lee, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.
* The Reds appear to be zeroing in on Juan Pierre, writes ESPN’s Jayson Stark. He also says the Dodgers look like the frontrunner on Shane Victorino, while teams that have checked in on Hunter Pence believe the Phillies will wait until the offseason.
* According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the Reds are talking to the Cubs about acquiring Matt Garza.
– Quinn Roberts
* According to Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic, D-backs General Manager Kevin Towers could pursue additional pitching prior to Tuesday’s deadline. He also hinted that one of the club’s infielders could be changing zip codes.
* Sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that there is no guarantee Arizona will trade shortstop Stephen Drew. Right now, the D-backs are deciding whether to give the majority of playing time at shortstop to Drew or Willie Bloomquist.
* With a little more than a day left before the Trade Deadline, the Padres are continuing to weigh several offers for third baseman Chase Headley, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports tweets. However, San Diego is still unsure if they want to move him.
* According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, the Red Sox have made calls to the Braves and Rangers in the past two days in an effort to get rid of Josh Beckett’s contract. The Red Sox began talks, believing Beckett would waive his 10-and-5 right to play for either team.
* Falling two games below .500 after being swept by the Twins over the weekend, the Indians have told teams they would consider trading Justin Masterson, according to Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.
– Quinn Roberts
* While Ryan Dempster is expected to be dealt before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline, it will not likely be to the Braves on Monday in exchange for young right-hander Randall Delgado, who was reportedly in line to be included in the deal.
MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reported that the Braves had reached an agreement to acquire Dempster from the Cubs earlier in the day, however the deal has not been officially completed. Because Dempster has played in the Majors for at least 10 years and has been with the same team for at least five years, he has the right to veto any deal.
Dempster, who leads the Major Leagues with a 2.11 ERA, declined to comment Monday on the rumors. He did deny reports that a deal had been completed on his Dempster Family Foundation Twitter account (@RyanDempsterFDN), saying, “THERE IS NO TRADE dont know where this info came from!”
“The team, the whole thing, was news to me — the team obviously is the one that leaked it out, or it came out of their city,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said of the Dempster-to-Braves reports. “Obviously, we can’t sit here and say it can’t happen. Anything can happen at this point. We have eight days until the Deadline. All the teams that are involved and want starters and need starters are all in play.”
Meanwhile, the Dodgers are still expected to be in the running for Dempster, with many suspecting he has told the Cubs that Los Angeles is the only team he’ll approve a trade to.
* The Marlins and Tigers completed a trade on Monday, with Miami sending second baseman Omar Infante and starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to the Tigers for Jacob Turner, Rob Brantly, Brian Flynn. The teams agreed to swap competitive balance picks in 2013.
* Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe is also reporting that the Red Sox are scouting Marlins starter Josh Johnson. However, no deal is close, according to Cafardo.
* In the biggest splash of the day, Ichiro Suzuki is headed to the Bronx in exchange for right-handers D.J. Mitchell and Danny Farquhar, who will both go to the Mariners.
“He’s done some great things in the league,” Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter said. “Offense, defense, there’s a lot of different ways he can beat you. He’s been as consistent as anyone.”
– Quinn Roberts
* With Brett Gardner out for the year, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports that the Yankees have talked to the Phillies about Shane Victorino, the D-backs about Justin Upton and the Twins about Denard Span.
* According to Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com, Jonathan Broxton of the Royals is a possible fit for the Giants, who are in the market for bullpen help.
* Cards GM John Mozeliak said that because his team has both short and long-term payroll flexibility, St. Louis will likely seek bullpen help at the deadline. Mozeliak also indicated that he is open to trading within the division as long as a top prospect isn’t involved.
* According to Conor Orr of The Star-Ledger, the next seven to 10 days will dictate if the Mets and GM Sandy Alderson will be buyers before the trade deadline.
– Quinn Roberts
* According to FOXSports’ Ken Rosenthal, Cubs right-hander Ryan Dempster is receptive to being traded to a contender, with the Dodgers and then the Braves topping his list of desired landing spots.
Buster Olney of ESPN.com said the Dodgers are considered frontrunners to acquire Dempster, but the Cubs are exploring other suitors. Many officials are also questioning whether Dempster would prefer to go to the NL West or AL East.
* Olney also tweeted that the D-backs are interested in acquiring Padres third baseman Chase Headley, but strained relations between the two organizations could make it difficult to strike a deal.
* The Mets have also begun to “pay close attention” to Royals closer Jonathan Broxton, a source told Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. The Royals closer has tallied 22 saves this season to put together a nice rebound campaign after struggling during the 2011 season.
*After the Brewers’ recent decision to skip Zack Greinke’s turn in the rotation, a few team executives have expressed concern in his health, tweeted Danny Knobler of CBSSports.com.
* Knobler also said that the Reds have focused in on looking for a leadoff hitter. With their leadoff hitters ranking dead last in the Majors in on-base percentage, the Reds have discussed the possibility of acquiring either Shane Victorino or Juan Pierre from the Phillies.
– Quinn Roberts
Nine days after making the trade that cleared out Michael Pineda’s spot in their starting rotation, the Mariners have apparently signed a possible replacement in veteran right-hander Kevin Millwood.News of an agreement between the Mariners and Millwood came via his own family, through a posting on Facebook by his sister Erika. It was subsequently confirmed by CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman, who reports that it is a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training. Millwood, who turned 37 on Christmas Eve, last season went 4-3 in nine starts with the Rockies, who returned him to the Majors in mid-August after he had spent most of the year in the Minors in the Yankees and Red Sox organizations. The Mariners would be the seventh club of Millwood’s career, during which he has compiled a record of 163-140 with a 4.10 ERA. He also has a no-hitter to his credit, against the Giants on April 27, 2003 while with the Phillies. A two-time 18-game winner with the Braves in 1999 and 2002, Millwood reportedly had a chance to remain in Colorado on a $1 million contract with an additional $1 million in incentives.
– Tom Singer
BOSTON — The Red Sox traded shortstop Marco Scutaro to the Rockies in exchange for right-hander Clayton Mortensen, the clubs announced on Saturday.
Scutaro will be Colorado’s starting second baseman. For the Red Sox, the main motive of the deal was to clear some salary space, so they could add another proven starter to their rotation.
Veteran free agent Roy Oswalt is one intriguing possibility. Edwin Jackson is another candidate on the free-agent market. The White Sox are said to be dangling righty Gavin Floyd in trade talks.
Mortensen is a veteran of three seasons, who has compiled a 4-8 record and 5.12 ERA over 24 appearances (13 starts).
– Ian Browne
Manny Ramirez is turning the heads of at least a few teams as the outfielder looks to return to Major League Baseball, but no club is more interested in the 12-time All-Star than the A’s, according to a report by ESPN.
The 39-year-old Ramirez, who retired last season after violating the league’s banned substances policy for the second time, has been working out in Miami and plans to have open workout sessions for interested teams later this month.
The Orioles and Blue Jays already have watched Ramirez hit, according to the report, but a source told ESPN that Oakland is “very interested” in Ramirez.
“The Orioles and Blue Jays saw Manny work and Baltimore liked what it saw, but Oakland has been the team that has expressed the most interest, even before having him work out,” the source told ESPN.
Ramirez, a 19-year veteran, has hit .312 with 555 home runs during his career with the Indians, Red Sox, Dodgers, White Sox and Rays.
If Ramirez were to sign with a team, he would serve a 50-game suspension stemming from his positive test last season. Ramirez and MLB had previously agreed on lowering the suspension from 100 games, which is the typical punishment for a second positive test.
– Cash Kruth
Tim Lincecum and the Giants are edging closer to a contract agreement that would enable the parties to avoid a potentially divisive salary arbitration hearing.
Industry sources confirmed Friday that negotiations between the club and Lincecum have progressed since Tuesday, when they exchanged proposed figures for one-year contracts. Lincecum requested $21.5 million, $500,000 short of the record amount Houston’s Roger Clemens sought in 2005. The Giants countered with $17 million, the largest arbitration offer a team ever has made.
It was not known whether the sides were discussing a one-year contract, which Lincecum said last season he’d prefer, or a multiyear deal, such as the two-year, $23 million pact he agreed to minutes before he and the Giants were scheduled to launch an arbitration hearing last year.
Lincecum, winner of two National League Cy Young Awards and a four-time All-Star, is likely to become the highest-paid Giant for 2012. Teams and arbitration-eligible players tend to split the difference between the figures they respectively submit. Lincecum’s midpoint of $19.25 million would exceed the $19 million that left-hander Barry Zito is slated to earn this year.
Lincecum became the only unsigned arbitration-eligible Giant when right-hander Sergio Romo agreed to a one-year, $1.575 million deal. That represented a 250 percent increase from Romo’s 2011 wage of $450,000. Since Romo filed for $1.75 million and the Giants offered $1.3 million, he received slightly more than the midpoint figure of $1.525 million.
After beginning the offseason with 13 arbitration-eligible players, San Francisco has come to terms with six of them since Monday: Romo, fellow right-hander Santiago Casilla, third baseman Pablo Sandoval and outfielders Melky Cabrera, Angel Pagan and Nate Schierholtz.
Romo, who turns 29 on March 4, earned his raise by establishing himself as one of baseball’s top setup relievers. He finished 3-1 with a 1.50 ERA in 65 appearances. Control remained Romo’s hallmark, as he struck out 70 and walked just five in 48 innings for a Major League-best 14-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s the best ratio among relievers pitching at least 45 innings since Hall of Famer Dennis Eckersley recorded a 18.25-to-1 mark in 1990.
“I feel like I’ve built a pretty decent name for myself and I want to keep progressing,” Romo said. “I want to do more and I can do more.”
Romo pitched the equivalent of a perfect game by retiring 31 consecutive batters over a 15-game span from July 4-Aug. 6. While right-handers hit .150 off him, he was no slouch against left-handers, whom he limited to a .229 average.
– Chris Haft